Alphabet pushes to keep smart city dream alive
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Alphabet pushes to keep smart city dream alive

Silicon Valley titan Alphabet is working hard to keep plans for its utopian city of the future alive. The company is continuing its attempt to sell Toronto on its vision of “smart cities” – and is hoping to start enabling the tech required there in the very near future. On Monday, it released a 1,524-page report that conveys its plans in meticulous detail. But, despite the overwhelming amount of good they could do, there’s a good chance they won’t get off the ground. That’s due to concerns raised by a number of observers in the city who don’t want Big Tech muscling in.

Anti-trust concerns have pushed Alphabet’s share price down, but it’s still up by 6% year to date

Alphabet July 3

Source: Yahoo Finance

Sidewalk Labs, Alphabet’s smart city subsidiary, wants to turn part of Toronto into a “model neighbourhood” for a new, connected, future. The company thinks it can roll out a variety of innovations that makes life more affordable, less polluted, with better weather, shorter commutes, and more environmentally friendly buildings. At first, it plans to start small: just ten buildings and 2.7 million square feet of residential and commercial space. But it’s hoping that initial successes will see it push further into the Canadian city’s waterfront area.

Unfortunately, not everyone shares this utopian vison of the future. Canadian parliament member Charlie Angus, who describes himself as a “recovering digital utopian” had this to say: “Is this the exciting city of the future or an urban company town run by a data giant? I think it's the latter. We are talking about wiring up urban spaces with a company whose business model is spying on everything we do.”

He’s not the only one. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has filed a lawsuit to halt the project, and an opposition movement has sprung up on social media: #BlockSidewalk.

Unsurprisingly, Alphabet does not agree with Angus’s assessment. On Monday, Sidewalks Labs CEO, Dan Doctoroff, highlighted the importance of the smart city project, saying: “If we want to solve these enormous urban challenges it's never going to be doing it the way we've done it in the past. We think you can actually produce a dramatic impact in urban life, that this can be a global hub for the urban innovation industry.”

Disclosure

Dominion holds Alphabet in its Global Trends Ecommerce Fund.


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